Digital literacy is a pervasive problem in American society still, even though iPhones and other smart devices seem to be increasingly the norm. In particular, digital literacy is more of a problem in poorer communities, and communities with large immigrant populations. President Obama has pointed this out in July of 2015 with the ConnectHome initiative.
The ConnectHome Initiative seeks to “reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children – with the support they need to access the Internet at home.” This is certainly not just a federal program but also one that uses “[i]nternet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector [to provide] . . . broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units.”
Seemingly, a program started by Comcast’s senior vice president, Steve Hackley, about three years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, was ahead of the game. As the story goes, Mr. Hackley spurred a relationship with a non-profit in an under-serviced area of Boston, with a large Haitian immigrant population when he bought lunch for his sales and marketing employee Bukia Louis Chalvire. Chalvire was head of a local non-profit called the Mattapan/Greater Boston Technology Learning Center, dedicated to the needs of the Haitian community. More specifically, Mattapan sought to “bridge the digital divide and bring technology to people in the community, many of whom did not have access to internet in their homes.”
After speaking to representatives from Comcast about the needs of the particularized needs of the Haitian community and Mattapan, an “enduring” partnership arose:
Today, Mattapan Tech annually offers free and low-cost training and job placement to about 1,200 adults of all ages from 14 ethnic backgrounds – about 40 percent with Caribbean heritage. As an Internet Essentials partner, Mattapan Tech has so far provided about 50 digital literacy training sessions for about 750 students. In addition, Comcast helped air public service announcements about Mattapan classes and the availability of Internet Essentials to the community.
Clearly, gains have been made towards the aims inherent in President Obama’s ConnectHome initiative, and the Haitian community has been among the winners.
To read more about Chalvire’s story and Comcast’s partnership click here for the original article.
Magdala is a second year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. She is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States!